Bharti SoftBank’s P2P instant messenger Hike raises $65M from Tiger Global, others

Hike, the instant messaging (IM) app service from BSB (Bharti Softbank- the joint venture between Bharti Group and Japan’s Softbank), has secured $65 million (Rs 400 crore) in funding from a group of overseas investors led by Tiger Global Management.

The funds will be used for product development and marketing, in addition to expanding its team.

 “This is a big milestone for us. We have almost doubled our user base, adding 15 million users in the last two months itself. We can see that our users love hike and we're now doing over 10 billion messages per month,” said Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder & CEO of Hike.

“With the new investment we’re going to double down. We have a great shot at becoming the first mobile internet company for India to cross 100 million users,” he added.

Founded in July 2012 by Kavin (son of Bharti Group honcho Sunil Mittal), Hike is a peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging app that uses both data and SMS to deliver messages. Hike is one of the leading mobile apps based out of India with around 35 million users, of which 15 million users were added in the last two months. Close to 90 per cent of its users are from India, and over 80 per cent of the users are under the age of 25. The firm also claims that Hike is handling over 10 billion messages and 3 billion stickers per month.

One of its key features is that those who don’t have Hike on their phones can still receive an instant message as an SMS. One can also respond to it but have to pay normal SMS charges for that.

Hike recently added a number of new features, which include a ‘hidden mode’ as well as a ‘big file transfer’ feature. The hidden mode feature enables users to keep their private chats hidden from others. One can now hide his/her private chats, such that no one even knows they’re hidden, and access them only with the right password.

The big file transfer feature basically equips users to share all file formats from Docs, PPTs, PDFs to MP3s of up to 100MB size each, surpassing the attachment limit of all IM apps and even email clients (as per the what the company claims). With the addition of the feature, Hike users no longer have to share files via emails or transfer over SD cards.

As of now, Hike is available on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, S40, and S60 platforms.

Earlier this year, BSB had infused $14 million into Hike. Prior to that, BSB had put in $7 million in Hike in 2013. A few months later, Hike announced its first telco partnership with Airtel, wherein the telecom operator’s pre-paid users will get the first three months of usage on Hike for free.

Hike is competing with a slew of IM apps that include WhatsApp, which claims to have around 10 million users in India, besides Facebook Messenger, Viber, Google Talk, China's We Chat, Japan's Line and Nimbuzz in India.

Founded in 2001, New York-based Tiger Global has been actively backing early stage ventures both in India and abroad. The firm’s public equity funds focus on long-term trends in the technology, telecom, media, retail and consumer sectors. Its Indian portfolio firms include Flipkart, MakeMyTrip and Justdial, among many others.

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